Today of all days, even Brother Jesse can't help adding to his mix of "Nearer My God To Thee" and "Balm In Gilead" a more-earthly praise: "When The Saints Come Marching In" has made quite a few appearances.
Listen, I'm not a football fan. I was raised in the land of basketball, and that remains the only sport I truly understand and care about (besides anything in the Olympics, but that's another post). However, I decided some time ago that when I need to declare an allegiance, I would choose the Saints, in part because I love New Orleans* and in part because I love how New Orleans loves them. I know people in other places love their teams, too -- when I lived in Chicago, I really did see tables of men at Due's murmuring sad "Da Bears" into mugs of beer -- but New Orleans loves the Saints on a whole other level.
Chris Rose writes about it in 1 Dead In Attic (which you all should really read anyway). I just started tearing up all over again looking for a good quotation to share with you, but I think I'd better choose something before I fall to reading the whole book again. This is from a piece he wrote after the first post-K game, in the Superdome that so many of us outside NOLA associate only with shame and horror but that many New Orleanians think of also with love for its life-saving shelter, however imperfect (as Rose says elsewhere, "The toilets didn't flush and there was no cold drinking water and not enough medicine, but toilets didn't flush anywhere and there was no ice or medicine anywhere"). See, I can't hold myself to one quotation, and don't even get me started on the piece about the lady with the cats. Or the piano store. Where was I? Right:
The Saints are family around here and you're stuck with them just like you're stuck with, well...family?
The Saints are our crazy Uncle Frank, prone to off-color remarks and broken promises and he's certainly not the guy you send to car pool to pick up your kids when you're stuck at the doctor's office, but you have to admit: holiday gatherings just aren't as much fun without him.
It's a long road home no matter what color glasses you're wearing today, but there is something about waking up in a community that is thinking the same thing -- if only for a moment -- as if we had all just accomplished something together -- when actually it was a bunch of millionaires whose names we hardly know.
I'm not trying to claim that I'm a supa-dupa Saint, but I wish I were, which is more than I can say for my feelings towards any other team.
Speaking of those millionaires, here's another reason I'll be wearing black and gold today (assuming I make it off the couch): Scott Fujita. I've heard quite enough about the Tebow Focus on The Family (Well Not YOUR Family) ad (though I encourage you to watch this response from Sean James and Al Joyner, who talk about honoring their mothers and daughters by believing in their ability to make medical decisions for themselves). I want to hear more about Scott Fujita, a Saints linebacker (and transracial adoption baby -- he's white; his family is part white, part Japanese: "I have no Japanese blood in my body. But I’m Japanese at heart.”) who has decided to use his time in the spotlight to champion gay rights. The whole interview is worth reading, but here's part I though you all might find particularly interesting:
A year ago or two years ago, I remember reading about an initiative that was proposed in the state of Arkansas. It was some kind of measure that was aimed at preventing adoptions by single parents. Now, the way I read that and the way that I translated that language was that only heterosexual, married couples could adopt children. As an adopted child that really bothered me. I asked myself, what that is really saying is that the concern with one's sexual orientation or one's sexual preference outweighs what's really important, and that's finding safe homes for children, for our children. It's also saying that we'd rather have kids bounce around from foster home to foster home throughout the course of their childhood, than end up in a permanent home, where the parent, whether that person's single or not, gay or straight. Either way, it doesn't matter. It's a home that's going to be provided for a kid who desperately needs a home. As an adopted child, that measure really bothered me. It just boggles my mind because good, loving homes for any child are the most important thing.
Oh, and he's straight (and married) and -- did I mention -- a FOOTBALL PLAYER? (Yeah, they do call him a pinko commie in the locker room; he speaks up anyway.) Scott Fujita, you are my hero.
This post is near long enough, and I've got stamps to carve and roux to make. In conclusion:
*Shameless-but-proceeds-to-charity plug: You can read my love letter to the city in Submerged: Tales from the Basin. Buy the book, and I'll tell you my seekrit identity, though I need for various reasons to keep my real name the hell away from this blog. I don't get any money if you buy it -- never did get any -- but several organizations working on sadly-still-necessary post-K recovery will.